Today would have been Hodgson’s 140th birthday. Clearly, even if he had survived WWI, he still wouldn’t be with us today but, who knows? With his devotion to physical culture, he could have achieved Immortality by now!
It’s tough to adequately express what Hodgson has meant to me personally over the years. I certainly never expected to become so involved in the study of his life and work when I first that first book. Perhaps that is a result of the fact that, back then, it was a lot harder to find any of his books much less read about him.
I first read Hodgson back around 1981 or so. On one of my first visits to Providence, RI, from Darien, CT, I was prowling one of the many used book stores that were on the East Side back then. (Sadly, all of those, including bookstores selling new books, have all vanished by now.) I chanced upon a copy of the Donald M. Grant edition of OUT OF THE STORM and was intrigued. By then, I had already read Lovecraft’s essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and was aware of Hodgson but hadn’t been able to find any of his books. This was actually a very dry period for Hodgson when he was coming close to falling out of the public’s eye again due to lack of reprints. My good friend, S.T. Joshi, who was with me in the store at the time, saw me looking at the book and recommended it to me highly.
From the very first story, I was (forgive the pun) hooked.
I’d long had a fascination with the literature of the sea (despite an almost pathological terror of it) and Hodgson’s inclusion of horror and giant monsters was just the sort of thing I was looking for. I loved the stories and wanted more! But, in those pre-internet days, I had to wait.
Shortly after, in 1982, I was attending the World Fantasy Convention in New Haven, CT, with ‘the Providence Pals’ when I chanced upon a dealer selling the complete run of Sphere paperback reprints of Hodgson’s works. All four novels and CARNACKI. I snapped them up immediately, not caring how much they cost. By the end of that weekend, I was a devoted ‘Hodgsonian’.
I found in Hodgson’s work a unique imagination that was boundless and peppered with instance of absolute terror. That first time reading THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND and THE NIGHT LAND will always be with me. But, damn it all! What about the man?
It wasn’t easy finding good material about Hodgson. Beyond the Moskowitz introduction in OUT OF THE STORM, and the few pieces by R. Alain Everts I’d been able to track down, there wasn’t much.
This bothered me.
Why wasn’t Hodgson being studied? Why weren’t his short stories in collections? Where were the scholarly and critical articles about his work? Slowly, with the help of others like S.T. Joshi, I was starting to put together more information and soon found myself in the unexpected but welcomed role of Hodgson spokesman.
Since those lean years of the 1980s, Hodgson has become more well known and there are now more articles written about him (along with doctoral thesis) then ever before. NIGHT SHADE books are beginning to reprint their fine five volume set of the Complete Fiction (more on that in an upcoming post) and several other publishers are planning memorial publications for next year which will be the 100th anniversary of Hodgson’s death atop that hill in Ypres.
I feel safe in the knowledge that Hodgson will endure and continue to attract new readers in the years and decades ahead. His work is far more available today than it has been at any time in his life and, above all else, I think that would make him very happy indeed.
Happy birthday, my old friend.
(Hodgson art by the extraordinarily talented Dave Felton.)